Making Waves

Julies Bicycle realised artists couldnt lecture on the environment without getting their own front of house in order first

WAVE TECHNOLOGY SURF SNOWDONIA MAKING WAVES Surfs up in Snowdonia, the unlikely setting for the first application of a revolutionary wave-generating technology from Wavegarden. Andrew Brister waxes his board and heads off to Surf Snowdonia, to find out what makes it possible for someone to ride a 2-metre wave in the heart of the Welsh mountains P acking for Snowdonia just got a bit gnarly. Hiking boots? Check. Rain gear? Check. Surfboard? What? Yes, thats right. You can now ride the worlds longest man-made surfing wave on a visit to Surf Snowdonia, a 15m leisure development in the lush, green, Conwy Valley in north Wales. The lagoon at Dolgarrog is on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, one of the most beautiful regions of the UK. It has been built on the former site of an aluminium rolling and casting works, owned by global giant Alcoa, which opened in 1907 and closed its doors 100 years later. The derelict, brownfield land that remained offered little prospect for development before it was bought by the property division of crane-hire company Ainscough, in 2012. Now, Conwy Adventure Leisure, in partnership with Ainscough Strategic Land, has cleaned up the site and created a stunning facility that is expected to attract more than 75,000 visitors a year. The 300m-long lagoon features the longest man-made surfable waves on the planet, and can accommodate 36 surfers at any one time: six advanced surfers, six intermediate, and 24 beginners. Those not riding the waves can visit the Surf Side Caf Bar, where there is also a 50m-long viewing gallery and a retail outlet. There is a family activity area, with a soft-play shack for toddlers and children under the age of 12, plus a second viewing gallery overlooking the Crash and Splash lagoon, which is due to open this autumn. On-site accommodation is available in the shape of wooden camping pods, which come equipped with underfloor heating and electric sockets. They are serviced by a shared, heated shower and toilet block. Surfs up The surf lagoon is the first application of Wavegardens wave-generation system, developed in northern Spain over the past 10 years by a group of hydrological, civil and mechanical engineers who also happen to be passionate surfers. The facility generates consistently powerful waves that interact with contours on The lagoon is on the edge of Snowdonia National Park the bed of the lagoon to provide different wave profiles at different points in the lagoon. The waves are variously overhead (1.9m), waist high (1.2m) and knee high, with the highest wave peeling for up to 150m. The waves aregenerated at a rate of one every 90 seconds thats 40 an hour. From the expert, central area of the lagoon, two identical waves break simultaneously, left and right, with rides of up to 20 seconds long. Once the waves reach the beginners area, at each end of the lagoon, the left and right-hand waves transform into smaller, more playful white-water waves the perfect size for all ages to learn and improve their skills. A unique, honeycomb shoreliner at the edge of the lagoon ensures the power of the wave is dissipated efficiently and the water quickly becomes flat again. This enables the rapid turnaround of the wave- There can be 40 waves an hour, with the highest peeling for 150m scales, he explains. Preliminary computer simulations were nearly always used, but the majority of the tests were also run on real-size models. The underlying aim was to achieve the simplest, most efficient and reliable technology possible. Our research and development has remained focused on creating the new technologies required to minimise energy consumption, thus limiting the costs of ongoing maintenance and continued investment. Wavegarden creates waves in the same way an ocean does. A mass of water is systematically moved over a surface that causes the wave to form and then fold on itself just like a wave breaking over a reef or sand bar. The difference is that Wavegardens patented technology can regulate the size and speed of the waves, making them engaging for different skill levels from beginner to ripper. The groundbreaking technology is based on an innovative hydrodynamic generating machinery. Understandably, Wavegarden is tight-lipped about the mechanics behind the technology, but engineer Alex Oatibia was prepared to reveal some of the secrets of making waves. Different methods of producing man-made waves have been tried, including linear and endless circular waves, which have all been tested on various bottom surfaces. This has involved many models, on different wave foil, which moves along the bottom of the lake, displacing water, and a revolutionary lagoon design which, together, create two perfect, 1.9m barrelling waves at the same time, says Oatibia. The wave-foil generator has been proven to be more reliable, and to require significantly less energy, than existing wave-generating technologies and those that are still in conceptual design stage. Can the man-made experience ever really match the thrill of nature? Oatibia thinks so. We are able to emulate close-out sections and play with the foil speed in order to create alterations like in nature. However, our wave will always be more predictable than waves in the sea, but that is what really makes our facility outstanding perfect and consistent waves all day long. Surf Snowdonia uses rainwater to fill the lagoon all 33,000m3 of it. The rainwater travels from two Snowdonia mountain reservoirs to power RWEs hydroelectric plant at Dolgarrog, before filling the lagoon. So the water that generates the waves is also helping to power 20,000 households in Wales each year. Rainwater from two reservoirs is used to fill the 33,000m3 lagoon The water-treatment system is based on particle filtration achieved by sand filters and UV disinfection, says Oatibia. However, the water from the reservoirs has been tested many times and is very nearly drinking quality before it reaches the lagoon. Of course, the difference between fresh and salt water is the buoyancy. While this would be noticeable if you were to float, statically, in the water, there is little difference when surfing. Surfers travel at about six to seven metres per second and can increase their speed with different manoeuvres, explains Oatibia. In reality, surfers are gaining advantage of the power of the wave to slide on the water, they do not float. So we can conclude that fresh water doesnt affect the surfing experience. More than 60 professional surfers have already tried the Wavegarden technology without raising this particular issue. The UKs avid surfing community and a stunning Welsh location have come together to allow the developers to create the first Wavegarden facility in the world and it is to be the first of many. Another lagoon is already under construction in the USA in Austin, Texas and will open its doors in 2016, while six other facilities are currently being developed around the world and there is finance committed for another 22 projects. Discussions are also in progress over many other potential lagoon locations. Floodlighting has not been installed at the Surf Snowdonia facility in Wales, but Wavegarden has trialled floodlit night surfing at its R&D facility in Spain. And for those who are wondering, the answer is yes: you do still have to wax your board in fresh water. CJ